I remember exactly where I was. On the couch, sick with the flu.
It was the first time I can definitely say, “I had the flu.” I may have had a bad cold before, one of those snockery, blowing every 3 minutes when you’re awake, taking Nyquil and only waking up to take more, kind of colds. This was nothing like that. This was a hurt all over, barely have enough energy to make it to the bathroom 2 rooms away and need 30 minutes to get enough energy to make it back, can’t make it to the kitchen, don’t want anything even if you did make it there, shivering one minute and burning up the next, flu.
I was about 2 or 3 days into it. My ex, who worked out of a shop next to the house, was kind enough to keep checking on me, and supplying me with sodas, oranges, Advil, and Nyquil, which were the only things I was interested in. I had made it as far as the couch, and was lying there, cocooned in blankets, drifting in and out as soaps played on the tv.
Like I said, I was out of it, so I don’t know if what I saw was live or if they broke into the soaps to show a replay. I think it was live, but I don’t know. I remember being a little pissed that they’d broken into the show. I mean, by that point, it was just “another shuttle launch.” Yeah, I knew they had Christa McAuliffe on it, which was neat, but didn’t really affect my life. I watched that pillar of fire rise from the ground, leaving a smoking trail behind it. Then, bewilderment. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I knew something was wrong. I saw the weird shaped smoke, with things speeding out in the wrong direction, and the odd looping bit of smoke, and the not going up anymore, but figuring out what it was they were showing was just beyond me at that time.
As a wandering in and out over the next two days, I was alternately puzzled about what I’d seen, and wondering if it had all been some kind of dream. As I got better, it became apparent that it was real, and the harsh reality began to sink in.
Those astronauts. The explosion. It was real. They were dead. It was a disaster. It was a tragedy. It was the end of an era.